Zimbabwean property and business owners could have lost at least $80 million from looting following a three-day stay away.
The shutdown, being the second major protest since the July 30 polls, added fuel to the fire claiming eight lives security forces clashed with the rioting public.
The shutdown saw people looting and burning shops especially in the urban centers.
During the protests, a police station in Marondera and a tollgate along Masvingo highway just outside Harare were set on fire while one police officer was stoned to death by protesters in Bulawayo.
As reported by Business Times last week, Government openly stated it would not hesitate to use brutal force to thwart attacks on the country’s security infrastructure.
“In situations where there is chaos and anarchy of this nature, and lawlessness, there is normally no bounds as to how much people will go. There have been fatalities, may be four, which includes security services,” Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said.
“We are having police stations raided, attacked and attempts to steal weapons from the police armory in major cities. The police have the right to defend these institutions. In any country you go to the penalty for killing a police officer could be three times harder and harsher than that of attacking an ordinary citizen because of what the police represent. A police officer symbolises law and order.”
For the period, Zimbabwe became a burning nation again as it had been largely perceived in the last two decades of Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Economist Eddie Cross said the cost of the stay away will be reflected in three separate ways- the actual physical cost of looting and damage, the cost to the economy in terms of loss of production and the cost to the country in terms of reputation as a stable destination for
investment, trade and tourism.
“My personal estimate is that the physical cost of looting and damage could be as high as $80 million, the cost in terms of loss of production ($500 million) and the cost in terms of reputation as a stable economy will depend on how quickly we will get back to normal but the potential cost to the country could run to billions over time,” Cross said.
Traffic, including regional buses and haulage trucks that pass through Zimbabwe, suffered delays while some trips had to be cancelled as some major roads were blocked during the protests. Damage to property was a real threat.
Cross said transit traffic through Zimbabwe runs at about 2000 trucks per day and the loss to Zimbabwe in terms of business and services could run as high as $1500 per truck.
“If 2000 trucks were affected, this would suggest $30 million. Most of this would be in foreign currency,” he said.
The financial cost to citizens is impossible to estimate but it would be considerable especially in terms of stress and anxiety, Cross added.
Economist Persistence Gwanyanya said the recent stay away and violent demonstrations had far reaching negative consequences on the economy at large.
The disturbances, Gwanyanya said, are seen as increasing currency risk at a time when the market is running out of patience with this adversary.
“Increased currency instability works against efforts to improve the country’s investment environment, which negates efforts to re-industrialise.”
“As they say, money is coward. It [money] does not flow where there is no peace. We lost significant amount of money from tourists who had to cancel their trips to Zimbabwe due to the turbulent situation. More damaging is potential loss in future revenue from the negative
perception of the country as a safe tourist destination,” he added.
As a result of the protests, Zimbabwe lost significant revenue from its borders as internet was switched off by officials in an effort to deal with the violent situation.
“The inaccessibility of our borders puts the country on bad international standing as a number of international trucking business lost significant revenue with negative ramifications on international trade.”
“Tax collection was equally affected businesses were closed and communication was made difficult as social media platforms were blocked in an attempt to contain the situation,” Gwanyanya said.